OTR Interviews

Gingrich: Obama's Speech 'Pathetic,' We Must Confront How Weak and Dangerous the Economy Is ... and How It Could Get Worse

2012 hopeful and former House Speaker takes on his showing at the Tea Party-sponsored debate, Obama's jobs plan and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 12, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now, Republican presidential contender and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us. Good evening, Mr. Speaker.


VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know if you listened to the interview...

GINGRICH: How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. I don't know if you listened to the interview I just had with -- that we just had with Governor Palin, but I gave you a shout-out, saying you're the only one who mentions waste, which is a big thing with me because it's billions of dollars of waste.

But I'm curious, you know -- two questions. Why are aren't others talking about it? And two, what did you do when were you speaker of the House or in Congress about waste?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I don't know why others aren't talking it. I do want to say, by the way, that Governor Palin's speech in Iowa last weekend on crony capitalism and on the problems of both parties is a very, very important speech. I'm going to be tweeting a link to it. I'm also going to be doing some other things with it.

I think it was maybe one of the more important speech she's ever given, and I think it raised a series of very profound questions that all of us, Democrat and Republican, have to wrestle with as citizens. And she did it very well. It's a very, very impressive speech.

I don't know (INAUDIBLE) when I was Speaker, we had a whole series of efforts. The funniest one -- I campaigned in 1996 carrying an ice bucket because one of the things we did is we used to have people who literally would deliver ice to every committee office and every congressional office. And we abolished those jobs and suggested that refrigerators had been invented, you know, almost 100 years earlier and that, probably, you could get ice without having a person bring a pail of ice by every morning.

And it was -- I know it sounds crazy, but it was a multi-hundred thousand dollar savings, which back then in the House budget was real money. We also totally overhauled the management of the House. We totally overhauled the way in which the police department functioned. We eliminated a number of smaller committees. And we worked very hard to bring the congressional budget down as part of a general effort to move to a balanced budget. And I think that we did, in fact -- if you look at reforms like Welfare reform, where two out of three people went back to work or went to school, we ended up saving hundreds of billions of dollars.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, one of the questions that (INAUDIBLE) these debates, so you know, I'm sure that had there been another hour would have gotten to you. So let me ask you now. There's an emerging crisis in the Middle East with Israel. Their embassy was stormed over the weekend in Cairo.

They've got -- their ambassador was thrown out of Turkey because of the fight that they're having over that raid on that Turkish ship that was headed for Gaza. And of course, you've got the -- you've got the problems with other countries with Israel. They're our good friends, but things are heating up.

Is there anything you would be -- oh, let me add one thing, is that Palestinians are going to seek statehood from the U.N. next week. What would you do if you were president of the United States about Israel right now? And is it as serious as I think it is tonight?

GINGRICH: It's extraordinarily serious. The Turkish government has begun moving towards a more and more radical position. Remember, the Turks are angry. The Turkish government is angry because even the United Nations found that their flotilla to Gaza last year was wrong and that they were violating the rules. And the Turks are really angry in general because their pride has been affronted, but they're taking it out on Israel.

They're threatening to use Turkish warships to escort a flotilla to Gaza. That would be an extraordinarily dangerous thing. The leader of Turkey is also saying that he will go to Gaza himself. That would be a very dangerous precedent. In Egypt, you have crowd control and very, very dangerous circumstances of dramatically rising anti-Israeli feeling.

I think you have to recognize that the region is very, very dangerous. I would take a very hard line. I think that Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is correct, the chair of the International Relations Committee. She has a bill in which would cut off all U.S. funding to the United Nations for any part of the U.N. recognized the Palestinian state. That's what Secretary James Baker recommended back in 1989 in the first Bush administration.

I think we have to take a very strong line. I would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a signal that we have solidarity with Israel. But I would also say to the Turks that we are not going to tolerate Turkish warships escorting a flotilla and flouting the United Nations agreement to Gaza.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about, though -- I mean, Cairo's another element to this because with them storming the embassy in Cairo over the weekend, and with, of course, Mubarak, who had -- who was as friendly as one gets with Israel from Egypt -- I mean, that's a very -- that's a very fluid situation. What would you do about that?

GINGRICH: Well, I think we should be actively trying to help the Egyptian military retain control of the situation. People talk about this Arab spring as though it's all positive. There's an enormous amount of hatred that has been bottled up and suppressed by people like Mubarak. And they have been sitting on top of a potential volcano. That volcano starting to explode.

No one has any idea where this is going. In the last few weeks, the Egyptians have allowed a number of terrorists to cross the Sinai for the first time, really, since the peace agreement back in 1978. And you now have a really dangerous environment beginning to be created, and one in which I think you could see things spiral in a very bad way in the near future.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what question wasn't asked tonight of the entire eight that you think that -- you know, that was missed or should be asked next time? Is there -- is there some really good question that we're missing?

GINGRICH: Look, I think the emphasis on, what should we do right now? President Obama's speech was so pathetic, his proposals are so political that we have to confront how weak this economy is, how dangerous it is, and the fact that it could get much worse.

And I think that any of these debates ought to have a very substantial section on what would you do right now? What do you encourage the Congress to do right now? What is it that we should be doing to -- because we're in danger of sliding from 9 to 12 or 13 or 14 percent.

Former labor secretary Robert Reich's comments this morning, Bill Clinton's secretary of labor, warning that you could see a dramatic increase in unemployment, is something which should sober every American and make us want the Congress to take action, despite the president, and force the president into a series of choices to either pass things that will create jobs or to veto them and prove how deeply committed he is to being a one-term president.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you. Thank you.